January 06, 2011 Articles

Part 1: LGBTQ Youth in the Juvenile Justice System

By Amanda Valentino

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning/queer (LGBTQ) youth represent at least 13 percent of the total detained population in the juvenile justice system. Katayoon Majd, Jody Marksamer & Carolyn Reyes, Hidden Injustice: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth in Juvenile Courts 10 (2009). Many of these youth experience debilitating harassment, violence, and discriminatory charges while in the juvenile justice system and are not obtaining the services they need because they are "under the radar." Although defense attorneys and other youth advocates see the increasing numbers of identifiable LGBTQ youth enter into the system, many go unnoticed because they keep their LGBTQ identities a secret. They might not conform to the common LGBTQ stereotypes that one usually encounters in today's mainstream media; therefore, they are not easily recognized. They might also be abused by close family members and peers because of their orientation and are afraid to ask for help or talk about personal issues while in the juvenile justice system. Although some safeguards are in place to ensure the safety of LGBTQ youth as a whole in detention facilities, more can be done to promote awareness and keep all LGBTQ youth safe.

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